Motatapu Alpine track

Written by      

Richard Bowles

The Motatapu Alpine track is one of the real jewels in the Te Araroa crown.

Opened in 2008, the track received initial fame for being negotiated by the Overseas Investment Office as a condition of purchase for Robert and Eileen Lange, better known as music producer Mutt Lange and country music singer Shania Twain.

If heading south, the track commences 2.5km up the Motatapu Rd from Glendhu Bay, following easy benched track the first 7km to Fern Burn Hut.

Continuing up the Fern Burn and over Jack Hall’s Saddle, a few hours of sidling and ridge walking (with some spectacular views as your reward) brings you into a spectacular high country basin and the Highland Creek Hut, one of the newest huts on the Te Araroa route, albeit with an occasionally rowdy gang of local possums.

From the Highland Creek Hut a challenging stretch awaits with a couple of steep climbs on the 11km stretch to Roses Hut, again though with wonderful views making it worthwhile and in the heat of summer a welcome dip in the river before arriving at the hut.

The final leg from Roses Hut starts with a climb up to the 1270m high point before descending to the Arrow River, which becomes the guide to Macetown. When the water is down the riverbed provides a quicker route, though if the water is high or discoloured the high water route sidles above the river before joining an old water race into Macetown.

For those wanting to add a day to this adventure, the Big Hill Track (12.5km, 4–5 hours) completes the journey into Arrowtown.

This is true alpine country—hence the name—and walkers should be well-prepared and aware of weather conditions. During summer expect scorching hot daytime temperatures, while in autumn and spring the night chill can come quickly. When there is poor weather, a number of river hazards may be best waited out, so take extra supplies in case that becomes a necessity.

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